Tips for Staying Happy and Healthy in the Great Outdoors
“What are you running from?”
Before 2007, I wasn’t much of an “exercise” guy. As my career progressed and I took on my first position where I was managing people, I turned to exercise as a way of processing the stress and anxiety that came with the job. That came mostly in the form of cycling and running.
I ran my first marathon in my hometown of Kansas City in 2008 during the recession. While the greater effects of the 2008 recession weren’t as evident to my mid-twenties brain, what was evident was that there were more people outdoors than ever before. On the weekends, local trails and sidewalks were packed with walkers, runners, stroller moms (and dads), cyclists, outdoor ellipticalists, and rollerbladers (I know… it was a different time).
More than anything, running proved to be a recession-proof sport. Surveys from Statista indicate that approximately 65 million Americans run regularly. Globally, marathon running grew 13.3 percent from 2009 to 2014.
It wasn’t an unusual trend, though. Similar trends have occurred during most economic downturns since the 1970s. You might not be able to manage the stock market or the economy, but you can manage your health. As the outdoor industry has continued to grow and as more outdoor activities have become more accessible, over the past few years running as a sport has started to decline in participation, while other activities, such as paddle boarding, cross-country skiing, and wind-surfing have grown in participation.
Regardless of the activity, what’s clear is that the outdoors are calling.
There’s a lot of evidence that suggests that spending time in the outdoors and in nature can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. There’s a strong correlation between time spent outdoors and mental health improvement. National Geographic wrote that even just the noise or the presence of nature can benefit people and a research study in 2019 showed a correlation between the amount of green spaces in urban environments and a reduction in the frequency of violent crimes.
When you combine the outdoors with exercise, you get an amazing boost of endorphins.
But sometimes taking that first step can be hard, especially in times filled with fear and uncertainty related to COVID-19 and all the news surrounding the Coronavirus.
So here’s a few helpful tips:
- Just do it. Open the front door and get outside. Even if it’s just walking around your neighborhood. Just make sure that if you see your neighbors to give them a six-foot-away “Hello!”
- If you’re up to venturing further, sometimes going on a simple hike is the best entry point. REI created an amazing website and app called the Hiking Project. Wherever you live, the likelihood of discovering a new trail nearby is pretty high with this app. Trails are rated Easy, Intermediate, or Difficult and they crowdsource updates from their users on trail conditions. They also have websites and apps for the Trail Run Project and Mountain Bike Project, so whatever your activity is, there is a resource.
- Don’t take unnecessary risks.
- Make sure you stay hydrated and bring some snacks. If you’re getting outdoors with kids, bring lots of snacks.
- Put on sunscreen.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. If you’re looking for some tips on what to wear, check out the gear reviews by Huck Adventure and Engearment. Both companies also have an active YouTube channel and podcast if you need some additional inspiration.
- Also, check out Backpacker Magazine or Outside Outline and follow them on social.
- And, more than anything, have fun.
I know that for me, the times I can get out on the trails around Boulder are some of the most peaceful moments I can find; times where all the noise in my head is quiet and I can just be present. There have been times where I’d be running and people would yell from their backyards or cars, “What are you running from?” And for the most part, I’d answer, “From myself!” It was mostly true.
So, if you do venture out for a run, enjoy those moments. Use this opportunity to walk, run, bike, or do whatever your activity of choice is for yourself.
But if someone asks you what you’re running from, take advantage of these crazy times to yell back, “From zombies!” and just wait for their reactions.